The Olympic flame keeps burning in the Pac-12

 

By Ann Killion, special to Pac-12.com

LONDON - The London Olympics ended the way they began: with sunshine, good cheer, British humor -- and significant contributions from Pac-12 athletes.

 

These games started with a soccer match featuring a U.S. women's team loaded with Pac-12 players, played in Glasgow two days before Opening Ceremonies - the first leg on the U.S. team's march to gold.

 

In the waning hours of the games, Arizona Wildcat Brigetta Barrett charmed the media by breaking into song after winning silver in the high jump Saturday night, four Pac-12 players helped the U.S. basketball team win gold Sunday afternoon and USC sprinter Bryshon Nellum carried the U.S. flag in the closing ceremony.

 

The bookends were filled with a triumphant Olympic run - once again - for the Pac-12.

 

The success of Pac-12 athletes has been astounding: Pac-12 athletes have contributed to 45 medals: 19 gold, 14 silver and 12 bronze. If the Pac-12 Conference were a nation it would rank fifth behind Great Britain (with 65). The U.S. led all countries with 104 medals.

 

They won medals in tennis and rowing, soccer and water polo, both kinds of volley, swimming and track and diving and tennis. They won in distance and in sprints. In the shadow of Big Ben at the beach volleyball venue and at venerable Wembley football stadium and in front of 80,000 screaming fans at track. Wherever you looked at the London Olympics, you were likely to see a Pac-12 athlete.

 

USC led all colleges with 25 individual medals. Cal athletes were third with 17 total medals and Stanford was fourth with 16. USC and Stanford athletes each claimed 12 gold medals, more than any other college.

 

Nellum, who was the victim of a gang shooting his freshman year at USC, was honored to be asked to carry the flag as his team made its way around the track one last time at Olympic Stadium. Nellum went through three different surgeries on his legs, yet made it to these Olympics, where he won a silver medal in the 4x400 men's relay. His position of honor was a fitting way to end the memorable and emotional Olympics.

 

But the Olympic sport experience doesn't have to come to an end. The Pac-12's medal haul was completed just days before the Pac-12 Networks will be launched, offering hours of Olympic sport coverage.

 

"It's going to be a great showcase for our sport," said water polo captain Brenda Villa, a Stanford graduate and one of 12 players on the gold-medal winning water polo team with Pac-12 ties.  "The Pac-12 is so prestigious in our sport. It's going to be great to have a place to see water polo."

 

And who wouldn't want to see Maggie Steffens, the incoming Stanford freshman who scored 21 goals, leading the U.S. women to the gold?

 

The athletes who are still in college will have a platform. The athletes who have left college behind are thrilled that their sports will have a platform to help garner new fans and support.

 

The London Olympics ended on Sunday night. But the Olympic flame will keep burning in the Pac-12.

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